“… The great danger for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states – and this goes for other, unreconstructed states in the Arab world in the wake of the Arab Awakening – is that events in Syria catalyse their own disaffected populations as well. Few of them, after all, are wholly immune to the charge of repressive illegitimacy that they now level against the Assad regime. Assad has picked up on that irony, telling his neighbours: “You have drowned your ships. The next storm will not exclude you”.
That is a danger that certainly faces Iraq and will restrain the Maliki government from too overt support for Iranian and Syrian objectives. In the reverse sense, it will also restrain Jordan, mainly because of Amman’s fears of spillover effects, particularly of mass emigration as the country moves towards a bloody and protracted civil war. Jordan has extremely uncomfortable memories of the Iraqi exodus in the 1990s as sanctions in Iraq began to bite, with the result that unrest and criminality in the Jordanian capital increased as Iraqis challenged Jordanians and Palestinians for available resources. Yet, despite such caution, Jordan will not able to stand completely aside…..However, as demonstrated by the docking of two Iranian warships on the Syrian coast last Saturday, at a time when Tel Aviv has not ruled out launching a unilateral strike against Iran, the Israelis may well begin to reconsider the desirability of the devil they don’t know. The hawks in Israel will see the need to determine which poses more of a threat: the “Islamic fundamentalist” Shia state, or the “Islamic fundamentalist” Sunni groups…
Egypt and, behind it, North Africa are not likely to play much of a role, …..Egypt is still obsessed with its own revolution, where the ramifications of the army’s future role will take until the end of this year to be fully resolved.…..The Maghrib itself is too remote to be involved beyond moral and diplomatic condemnation. That has been, after all, its default position for decades over events in the Middle East. Algeria is ambivalent – the situation in Syria is too close to its own domestic circumstances for it to wish to become explicitly critical…..The remaining state that is directly affected by events in Syria is, of course, Turkey. A former cautious ally of the Assad regime, the Erdogan government has deliberately avoided doing anything provocative. It has provided a refuge for the fragmented political opposition and has probably turned a blind eye to more militant activities as well. In the wake of the failed UN Security Council Resolution, Turkey is also spear-heading a new diplomatic initiative which will probably aim to tighten sanctions, block arms shipments to the regime, and increase support to the Syrian opposition. However, it is not prepared to overtly espouse armed resistance.The question is why Turkey – not only a leading Sunni state, but increasingly seen as the paradigm for political change inside the Arab world – should be so reluctant to become actively involved. … …. given Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s policy of avoiding problems with neighbours, Turkey’s reticence to intervene militarily is, perhaps, not surprising. It reflects, perhaps, the recent threats of renewed Syrian support for the PKK, should Turkey become involved, as well as a preference in Ankara for a negotiated outcome. After all, Turkey will have to live with the consequences in Syria, whatever they may be and it is by no means clear that, the Assad regime will collapse.
And that is a lesson that Western policymakers should, perhaps, take on board. The comforting assumption in European capitals and Washington that moral disapproval and economic sanctions can take care of the Syrian problem is seriously misplaced. …. Western powers face a much greater constraint on their freedom of action than their public rhetoric suggests. Even a short and limited intervention, as occurred in Libya, has highly unpredictable implications in a crucial strategic environment – far more complex, indeed, than that around Libya. Few statesmen will want to take responsibility for a military operation with such uncertain outcomes.
Their situation is made worse by the fact that some of the most active proponents of muscular intervention – Britain and France – lack the means by which to do this, owing to slashed defence budgets. It was notable that the best the two leaders could offer at their recent summit in Paris was food aid for Homs,…………. Despite intense Congressional and popular distaste for the Assad regime, American disinclination for further foreign adventures is even greater. Even in Tunis at the end of February, proposals for humanitarian aid were the sole real initiative that the “Friends of Syria” could agree on, although, privately, some Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, hinted that they would supply arms to the Syrian resistance – a counsel of despair, given the chaos it would probably cause….”